Train students to be thinkers

University of Nairobi

University of Nairobi graduands at a past graduation ceremony.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Most students have internet enabled gadgets, yet reserve them for social businesses.
  • We cannot, for instance, teach knowledge without engaging learners in thinking.

Most universities and colleges have admitted their first year students. But just how do matriculation events prepare the learners for their imminent responsibility?

When students qualify for admission, their minds quickly shift to an already formed idea of a university; a place for quenching their cognitive and affective needs. In short, their focus is largely on ‘the experience’ that university life offers. But this may no longer be the case, given the virtual nature of the new university.

The current crop of students go to university to be ‘taught’. They view these institutions as feeding troughs where ready-made knowledge is handed down to them in the fashion of the biblical Moses and the Torah. They hardly reckon that learning is an active process, and that it places certain demands on each party.

Most students have internet enabled gadgets, yet reserve them for social businesses. And when in class, they hardly analyse, critique or provide alternative views.

Theirs is to memorise bookish knowledge, or worse, make short write-ups which they regurgitate during examination – especially in courses which are overly theoretical. Reading is never their portion, and this is reflected in their poor comprehension and writing skills.

Application tests

It’s no wonder they detest application tests, having wasted themselves cramming notes which they believe must be provided. Already, there are complaints concerning low quality of judgments written by some judges and magistrates, especially the younger generation.

In classical times, a university was a centre for enlightenment and inculcation of humanity among individuals. Learners were socialised into knowledge, truth and social justice. Most importantly, they learned critical thinking by way of dialectic.

Whereas university students are justified in demanding tuition, which they mistake for notes, they ought to remember that content is inherently passive until acted upon. Instructively, knowledge and thinking go hand in hand.

We cannot, for instance, teach knowledge without engaging learners in thinking. Similarly, thinking cannot be nurtured in the absence of some foundation of knowledge; else, what will one think over? But most students place much premium on passing examinations, a feat they must achieve through hook or crook.

It is no wonder that creative and critical thinking is at its lowest, decreasing their chances of self or other employment.


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